UK MPs face tighter rules on expenses


London : From next month, British MPs will be able to claim expenses of only up to pnds 25 (dlrs 50) without a receipt, a cut from the current pnds 250 limit, a parliamentary watchdog ruled Tuesday.

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The (House of) Commons Members Estimates Committee also slashed the amount of petty cash MPs can use for office expenses from pnds 250 to pnds 50 per month.

The review was ordered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month after Conservative MP Derek Conway was effectively expelled from his party after it was revealed he had been paying his son a salary out of his allowance while he was attending university.

In an interim report, the committee said that it had heard from MPs from all sides and had considered whether the threshold for expenses without receipts should be zero but ruled it out for practical reasons.

“Members have also spoken of their experience in previous jobs outside the House which suggest that in other occupations all receipts would be submitted with claims or certainly for all claims over pounds 25,” it said.

MPs currently also do not present receipts for up to pnds 400 a month for food bought while staying away from their main home, but the committee is not expected to deal with this until its final report.

Following a series of scandals, the watchdog said it was ‘determined to establish audit controls which command public confidence’.

In January, Works and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain was forced to resign from his cabinet post after a police investigation was ordered over his failure to declare over pnds 100,000 (dlrs 200,000) in donations.

The ruling Labor Party is also facing separate police
investigations into illegal donations of more than pnds 600,000, including one paid to House of Commons leader Harriet Harman in her successful campaign to be deputy Labor leader.

Last year, Labor escaped prosecutions after a 15-month investigation over allegations that people were nominated for peerages in the House of Lords in return for loans made to the party before the last general election in 2005.